The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved Frontier Communications Corp.'s plan to acquire Verizon's land line business in West Virginia, but there are strings attached.
A Frontier spokesman said the company is pleased. A Communication Workers of America spokesman said the union is disappointed.
The commission late Thursday approved the biggest deal in West Virginia telecommunications history but said Frontier must:
* Invest $231 million between the second half of this year and 2013, including $12 million already targeted at improving service quality.
* Make additional capital investments of at least $48 million to increase broadband deployment and subscriptions in the Verizon service territory.
* Expand broadband availability so access will be available to no less than 85 percent of the households within the Verizon service areas within four years.
* Honor all existing Verizon obligations, including the commitments Verizon has made to improve service quality.
* Locate its Southeast regional headquarters in Charleston.
* Adopt all of Verizon's tariffs, price lists and contracts, including long distance, under the same terms and conditions at closing and cap all regulated rates for one year.
* Provide E-911 functionality provided by Verizon prior to the completion of the transaction.
* Waive early termination fees for current Verizon customers participating in a Verizon bundled service package for 90 days after completion of the transaction.
The commission order also specifies that Verizon will fund the pension account for employees moving to Frontier and Verizon will remain responsible for employees who have retired prior to completion of the deal.
"While any merger carries some level of risk, the commission concluded that the benefits presented by this proposed merger, with conditions and commitments, outweigh the negatives or potential risk," the commission said in a prepared statement.
"The commission believes that Frontier will emerge as a successful telecommunications utility company to serve West Virginia."
The approval came on a 2 to 1 vote with Commissioner Edward Staats dissenting and reserving the right to file a dissenting opinion.
Although all necessary state approvals have now been granted, the Federal Communications Commission must approve the transfer of certain licenses for the transaction to close.